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The Bay of Islands region is famous for its unspoilt natural beauty. With its 144 islands and abundance of marine life, it’s chiefly known as a boaties’ paradise, but it’s great for walking too. From a quick jaunt uphill or a casual boardwalk stroll to full-day and overnight treks, the Bay of Islands offers a wide variety of walks, hikes and tramps for all ages and fitness levels.
Here are some of the most popular Bay of Islands walking tracks for you to explore:
SHORT BAY OF ISLANDS WALKS
Opua Forest Paihia Lookout
This short walk starts close to Paihia’s main street, starting on a track past wetlands before climbing up through regenerated native forest to a lookout point high over the town. Keep an eye out for native birdlife as you travel! The lookout is a great place to get your bearings in the Bay of Islands, with stunning views from Opua out towards Waitangi and Paihia, over to Russell and out across the Bay. This well-maintained walking track is a good option for visitors with limited time.
Flagstaff Hill Loop walk
This is a great option if you’ve arrived in Russell via passenger ferry and are ready to explore! There are low tide and high tide options for the start of this walk, which wends its way through native bush to the top of the hill, where you can see the famous flagstaff that was chopped down four times by Māori in opposition to British rule. Drink in 360-degree views of the Bay of Islands and stroll over to the centennial sundial.
Long Beach walk
Long Beach (Oneroa) is a beautiful swimming beach within easy walking distance of Russell. The quickest route is the Long Beach Walkway, a paved walking track which starts on Long Beach Road and leads over the hill to the northern end of Oneroa. Don’t forget your swimsuit and a towel!
Haruru Falls walk
Starting at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, this walkway follows the Waitangi River through native bush, before running along a boardwalk past a mature mangrove forest. Haruru in te reo Māori means ‘roar’ or ‘rumble’ – listen for the thunder of water on rocks as you near the end of the track. Enjoy the view as water cascades down the horseshoe-shaped falls and into the basin below – once the site of New Zealand’s first river port.
We recommend returning along the same route, as the road from Haruru Falls to Paihia has no footpath and is not suitable for pedestrians.
Kerikeri River Track and Rainbow Falls walk
Starting at the historic Stone Store and Mission House in the Kerikeri Basin, this walking track follows the banks of the Kerikeri River up to the Wharepuke and Rainbow Falls. Listen out for native birds like tui or fantails as you walk through native bush. There are viewing platforms at the top of the falls where you can take a snapshot – or bring your swimsuit and take a dip in the swimming hole below.
A shorter walk of approximately 400 metres can be taken from the carpark and picnic area at the end of Rainbow Falls Road. This option is wheelchair accessible.
Taronui walking track
This walk on the Purerua Peninsula, just 30 minutes north of the Bay of Islands, winds through a mixture of farmland and bush to the white sand beach of Taronui Bay. There is no vehicle access to Taronui; with foot access available from Taronui to Tapuaetahi Beach at low tide. Signs and orange warratahs mark the route.
Whangamumu scenic walk
Visit the breathtaking Whangamumu harbour and tread the path of the early 20th century whalers. The track will take you through wetlands and coastal forest, over a ridge to a pristine sandy beach. See the old whaling station, a relic of New Zealand’s early settlers. Take a picnic and your swimsuit to make a day of it.
LONGER BAY OF ISLANDS WALKS
Coastal Walkway - Paihia to Opua, Okiato to Russell
The Bay of Islands Full Circle Coastal Walkway is made up of walking sections from Paihia to Opua and Okiato to Russell across the harbour, joined by ferry services. Explore a range of landscapes, from beaches and estuaries to dense bush and hilly terrain with harbour views. Along the way you’ll see historic points of interest, as well as vineyards, oyster farms and native birdlife.
A reasonable level of fitness is required for some sections of this walk. You can complete the whole walk or choose sections to suit the time you have available and your fitness level. A map with the sections marked out can be picked up at the Paihia i-SITE.
Take an archaeological walk around beautiful Urupukapuka Island and discover evidence of a thriving Māori community that once lived here. Pass through wetlands, home to endangered native birds like the brown teal and dotterel, see the remains of fortified Māori villages, and enjoy native forest and stunning views around the Bay of Islands. This walk is divided into two 2.5 hour sections – a map and information can be obtained from the DOC website. You can schedule your walk to coincide with our daily dolphin watching cruises which stop on the island, or make your own way there.
OVERNIGHT BAY OF ISLANDS WALKS
Cape Brett Walkway
You’ll need a high level of fitness for this walk, but you’ll be rewarded for your exertions with fantastic views of the Bay of Islands. The track travels along the ridge of Cape Brett Peninsula all the way to the lighthouse at its end. There are many bluffs and steep cliffs that require extreme caution when tramping to the lighthouse.
Be prepared to stay the night in the DOC (Department of Conservation) hut, which needs to be booked in advance. A track fee must be paid for a portion of this walk as it travels over private land. Track and hut fees can be paid at the Paihia i-SITE. A water taxi is available from Russell and Paihia. By land the track begins from Oke Bay.
USEFUL INFO FOR YOUR BAY OF ISLANDS WALKING HOLIDAY
- The Bay of Islands is situated in the ‘winterless north’ of New Zealand, and enjoys comfortable temperatures year round. Summer temperatures can pass 30°C (around 90°F), with January and February the warmest months. Average rainfall in the Bay of Islands is around 2000mm.
- Make sure you’re prepared for your walk with a hat, suitable walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, waterproof and warm layers as needed.
- Visit the Fullers GreatSights booking office or Paihia i-SITE to pick up a copy of the Coastal Walkway map and guide.
- If you’re planning to do the Cape Brett walk, make sure you book the hut in advance and pay track and hut fees via the DOC website
- The inaugural Bay of Islands Walking Weekend was held in October 2013, with guided walks around the Bay including walks on many of the islands.